4 The Black Death, the second bubonic plague pandemic, and the one best documented historically, reached Europe from Central Asia in 1347 , and was still more devastating. Within the first four years, no less than 20 million Europeans died, and estimates of deaths from plague during the rest of the fourteenth century range from a low of one quar- ter to a high of one half of the total population of both Europe and the Middle East. The demographic crisis triggered by this die-off did not end until 1500 , and historians are generally agreed that it was the sin- gle most important factor in bringing the Middle Ages to a close. 5 The focus of this article is the third and most recent plague pan- 2 Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An introduction to history (trans. F. Rosenthal; ed. N. J.Dawood. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967 ), 30 . See also Lawrence I.Con- rad, Black Death in the Middle East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977 ); Michael W. Dols, Black Death in the Middle East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977 ); and Daniel Panzac, La peste dans l’empire Ottoman, 1700–1850 (Leuven: Peeters, 1985 ). 3 For the contested question of plague identification and historiography in China, see Carol Benedict, Bubonic Plague in Nineteenth-Century China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996 ), 7 – 15 . 4 Pauline Allen, “The ‘Justinianic’ Plague,” Byzantion 49 ( 1979 ), 5 – 20 ; Jerry H.Bent- ley, “Hemispheric Integration, 500 – 1500 c . e . ,” Journal of World History 9 ( 1998 ), 237 – 254 . An earlier record of what may very well have been bubonic plague is to be found in I Samuel, chapters 5 and 6 , where the “plague of the Philistines” is described at some length. The text describes swollen tumors or buboes in the groin, the possible epizootic, or large die-off of field rodents (“mice that mar the land”), the spreading of illness from the coastal towns of the Philistines inland towards ancient Israel, and the large and no doubt exag- gerated numbers of deaths. Equally intriguing is the implicit debate in the biblical text as to whether the presence of plague is the consequence of random chance, natural law, or human agency. It is in effect a question that cannot be resolved, notwithstanding all of our precocious bio-technology. 5 Among the most accessible recent scholarship, the best overview is Gottfried, The Black Death, which stresses the newer environmental approach more than does Philip Zieg- ler. In The Black Death (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970 ) Gottfried views the second plague pandemic as part of an ecological crisis lasting three centuries. Two important arti- cles are Ann G. Carmichael, “Bubonic Plague,” and Katharine Park, “Black Death,” in The
Echenberg: Initial Years of the Third Bubonic Plague Pandemic 4 3 1 demic, which ran from 1894 to roughly 1950 .
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